At SWISS, Peter Wild trains pilots. At the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, one of the world’s best universities, he helps to attract the talents of the future to the air transport sector.
It’s the start of a new semester. And Peter Wild stands in a lecture hall at the Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, scanning the faces of the new students before him. Peter is Head of the Air Transport study programme at ETH Zurich. As such, he familiarises some 200 students each year with the principles of the industry, from airport operations to aircraft maintenance to the management of an airline.
It’s quite a challenge. Not only does the ETH course cover virtually every aspect of the air transport world: Peter’s students are also drawn from a wide range of fields. There are engineers of all kinds, along with environmental scientists, political scientists and nutritionists. So at the start of each semester Peter casts his net as wide as possible to address everyone’s interests. “People tend to think that an air transport career has to be in the cockpit,” he explains. “But there are so many more opportunities besides.”
An environmental engineer might follow his ETH studies by working for the Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation; the food specialist may head for an airline caterer; and the political scientist may find her niche at the vital interface between politics and aviation. “Employers show a lot of interest in our graduates,” Peter says. “Well beyond Switzerland, too – not least because there’s a shortage of good air transport study programmes worldwide.”
Peter should know. Now 49, he has been all over to get to where he is now. At 17 he became Switzerland’s youngest pilot, and by 20 he was an instructor. He initially worked for the Rega Swiss air rescue company, and then spent several years at Swissair. Today, with over 15,000 flight hours under his belt, he’s a SWISS captain and flying instructor.
Flying is not his only passion, though. It never has been: Peter Wild has always had two careers. When he wasn’t sitting in a cockpit, this native of central Switzerland was studying business administration in Zurich and at the reputed IMD in Lausanne. He also earned a doctorate in strategic airline management in the USA and Australia. SWISS has always given him the scope and the encouragement to pursue this dual career. “Air transport – and SWISS in particular – is a lot more progressive here than many other industries,” he says. “Part-time work models are common throughout our company.”
And that’s how Peter can today train pilots at SWISS and industry talents at the ETH. Not that he does so alone: The ETH tuition is firmly founded on the notion of having the best specialists in each field to impart their expertise. ETH Zurich has been running its Air Transport programme for six years now, and it’s proved a real success – one of the most popular at the university, according to the rectorate, and one that earns high marks from its graduates, too. “That’s our reward,” Peter observes. “None of us do this for the money: We do it for the knowledge that we’ve given students from all backgrounds a strong interest in our field.”
Text: Renato Beck / Photos: Pascal Mora